We here at talking10 hope you’ve found family, happiness and all you’ve hope for this holiday season. But, this is the season of giving gifts and receiving them too.
Gifts under the tree, the surprise of a favorite toy wanted and who can forget the pink bunny suit, right?
While we are all busy giving and receiving gifts amongst our families, we thought it time to also hand out gifts to every team in the Big Ten.
We’ll start with the East division, noting the one thing that should be under every program’s Christmas tree.
Patience, we’re going to hand out patience to the fans of the Hoosiers in general. Why? Well, when you’re a historic basketball power and you’re struggling the way Indiana is these days that’s what will be required.
I have full faith that Archie Miller will turn things around for the basketball program. It’s just that it is going to take some time to shape the program the way he wants to. A 7-6 start to the 2017-18 season certainly tells that tale.
So does the fact that two of those six losses are to mid-tier programs at the mid-major level in Indiana State and Fort Wayne. In fact, the Hoosiers only have one win against a program in the state so far this season. They beat then No. 18 Notre Dame 80-77 in overtime.
The key to turning things around will be effort turning in to actual production on the defensive end of the court. So far, that’s been the Hoosiers biggest struggle, and a thing that is going to take time to correct. Time and patience really. So, our gift is patience that Miller is doing the right thing and will turn the Hoosiers around quickly.
Chalk this year up to a learning experience and building the expectations of a very different program from the one Tom Crean left behind.
A quarterback who doesn’t tear his ACL is under your tree folks. For a program that cares more about basketball than football, the start to 2017 got plenty of people interested in Terps football. But, by the fourth quarter of a win in the opener against Texas the season took a dramatic turn.
That’s when Tyrell Pigrome went down with a torn ACL and in had to step true freshman Kasim Hill. Hill would last only two more games before a torn ACL stopped his season right in its tracks.
Not only did they stop the quarterback play, but those two losses also stopped Maryland’s season right in its tracks. After showcasing a dangerous offense, it was down to third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager and the results weren’t good.
So, we’re going to go give a gift of a year without a quarterback tearing an ACL and it comes with a bonus of Hill and Pigrome coming back at the levels displayed before they went down. Without their dynamic abilities behind center, Maryland football was and will be in some serious trouble.
Under your tree this year? How about a consistent quarterback.
We’re sure that sounds like the Christmas gift that would be at the top of your list after the first three years of the Jim Harbaugh era. A few 10-win seasons and now an 8-4 regular season were not what the Michigan fans were hoping for.
The biggest culprit has been a complete lack of consistently good play at the quarterback position. This past season was supposed to be the year that finally took place, instead it was consistently bad play from Wilton Speight, a spat of injuries and someone with potential finally emerging.
Brandon Peters showcased an ability to be at least a quality game-manager while learning to be a starting quarterback. He got injured late in the season and John O’Korn had to come back on the field. It was disastrous to say the least.
But, with Speight announcing his transfer and O’Korn graduating the field is now wide open. That’s especially the case with the incoming transfer of former 5-star recruit Shea Patterson from Ole Miss.
Should the NCAA grant his waiver to transfer in immediately, the Wolverines may finally have their answer to their quarterback problems.
Even if Patterson isn’t granted his waiver, Peters and Dylan McCaffrey (a former top 5 pro-style quarterback as a recruit) will be an interesting battle to watch this spring. Simply put, Harbaugh’s tenure hinges on finding a quarterback capable of being a game-winner rather than a game-manager.
Michigan State Spartans
This one is easy. We’re putting an NCAA championship under your tree in 2017.
No, we’re not talking football, but of course a 2018 NCAA men’s basketball national championship.
That’s how good the Spartans are so far this season. They are certainly capable of being a national championship contender. That’s what a 12-1 start and wins over programs like UNC, Notre Dame and Oakland will do for you.
So far, Michigan State is proving to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Big Ten. But, this is a league that hasn’t won a national championship since the last time the Spartans did back in 2000 (sorry Maryland’s 2004 title doesn’t count here).
With Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford leading a host of five players in double figures, it’s hard to see anyone stopping this team.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Honestly, what can we put under the Buckeyes tree that will suffice? Anything short of a national championship in football won’t cut it…and that is impossible this season thanks to a committee of 13 people.
So, we’ll instead settle for giving the gift of an improving basketball program. Ohio State’s program is going to take some time to develop under Chris Holtmann, and I believe we are seeing just how far this program feel in the final years of Thad Matta right now.
The Buckeyes sit at a nice 10-4 on the season and got off to a perfect start in Big Ten play by demolishing Wisconsin and beating arch-rival Michigan (I mean that rivalry extends to every sport, right?) on the first weekend in December.
The four losses weren’t bad ones either, as Holtmann’s old team, Butler, did them in and there’s a loss to North Carolina in there as well.
It’s taken a short time, but we have a feeling Buckeyes fans will enjoy a resurgent men’s basketball team in 2018. One that will go back to the NCAA tournament. So enjoy that stocking stuffer under your tree.
Penn State Nittany Lions
What do you get for an athletics department that nearly has it all? How about a men’s basketball team going to the NCAA tournament? Well, that won’t be our gift and a loss this week to Rider made that choice easier.
Instead, we’re going to give you the ultimate gift of the return of quarterback Trace McSorley for his senior season.
We know, the signs all point to him likely taking off to the NFL, what with his emotional reaction to Senior Day and all. But, most draft experts have him in the 4-7 round range and that grade could keep McSorley in school for one more season.
Additionally, McSorley will likely be the focal point of the offense next season with both Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki likely off to the NFL draft as well. So, the chance to be the focal point of the offense and the likely low grade could be the enticement needed to keep him in Happy Valley for one final season.
Either that or all the change coming, including a new offensive coordinator could mean McSorley is gone no matter what. Personally, I’d stick one more season and hope to take advantage of the 2019 draft class.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Artur Sitkowski working out immediately — how does that sound for you Rutgers fans out there?
When a program is looking to turn things around, sometimes all it takes is for one player to make a big commitment. That’s what happened in the 2018 recruiting class, as home-grown 4-star quarterback Artur Sitkowski signed with Rutgers in the 2018 recruiting class.
He was a late switch to the Scarlet Knights, moving his commitment from Miami (FL) in the process.
It’s that type of commitment that can transform an offense that is already building an identity as a power football team. At 6-5, 220 pounds before he even steps foot on the field for Rutgers, he’s got the imposing size that is needed to go with the offense that is being built.
Sitkowski was listed as a pro-style quarterback, but he’s demonstrated plenty of ability in the read-option game to make teams have to worry about his legs as well as his strong arm. This is a transformational type player, and Rutgers certainly would love for him to work out from the moment he steps on campus.
It’s easy to see that happening, so we are putting that gift under your tree this year.